Causa

Causa was founded in the fall of 1995 by farmworkers, immigrants and allies in order to defeat anti-immigrant ballot measures prepared for circulation to Oregon voters. Since 1995, Causa has defeated dozens of anti-immigrant bills, including attempts to pass E-verify, restrict bilingual education, reduce needed services for low-income immigrant families, and Arizona-style legislation. From 2009-2011 Causa expanded our work to advocate for statewide policies that positively affect Latino immigrant communities in Oregon such as health equity, affordable housing, and jobs and the economy. (Source: Causa website)

400 people attended Causa’s 14th Annual Statewide Immigrant Action Day in Salem on Saturday, January 21 to highlight:

Restoring driver’s licenses for all in Oregon

Stopping local law enforcement collaboration with ICE

How to get involved with our children’s education

Making your voice heard in elections

Equality for all members of our community

On January 24, Causa and a coalition of Eugene churches (including First Congregational UCC) and community groups hosted 350 guests a second annual Leaders Assembly. The issues addressed, to the attention of special guests from city, county, and state government, were a driver’s license restoration for all qualified Oregon residents and restoration of county funding for Centro LatinoAmericano in Eugene.

In 2005, the federal government passed the Real I.D. Act. In 2007, Governor Kulongoski followed by passing an order to get the Oregon driver’s license to meet the federal standard. This requires people to provide a birth certificate and documentation of legal status to renew or obtain a driver’s license. By the end of 2012, most of the immigrant community will be without a legal driver’s license. This is a losing situation for all—drivers, insurance companies, state licensing revenue, farmers and related industry, and certainly undocumented people who must work, go to the grocery or doctor, and take their children to school.

Gov. Kitzhaber has taken up this issue and will pursue passage of the Safer Roads Act to restore a driver’s-license-only for eligible drivers.

Centro LatinoAmericano, the largest and most established community-based organization in Lane County (and the southern Willamette Valley) serving the needs of low-income individuals and families, suffered drastic funding cuts from Lane County in June of 2011. This leaves poor citizens with fewer resources (e.g., heat assistance, language barrier assistance) to help them become self-reliant.

Currently, anti-immigrant groups with the support of Oregon State Representative Kim Thatcher (R), Oregon State Representative Jeff Barker (D) and others are preparing to introduce House Bill 4052 to force state agencies in Oregon to use the flawed E-verify system to “verify employment eligibility of applicants.” E-Verify, an Internet-based computer database run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has a troubled history that would spell disaster for Oregonians and Oregon’s struggling budget. Readers can take action on this and other Causa issues by checking the website: http://causaoregon.org


Brenda Kame’enui
First Congregational Church
Eugene, Oregon

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Low-wage Jobs in Idaho – Peace in the Marketplace

by Carol Stirling, Boise First Congregational UCC

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” — Matthew 22:39b

Jobs should lift all people out of poverty, not keep them in it. But in the U.S. and in Idaho, fully one-quarter of all jobs pay poverty-level wages. The federal poverty level is $22,050 for a family of four. However, research suggests the average family needs an income of about twice the federal poverty level, or about $45,000, to meet basic needs. By that standard, 54% of people in Idaho are unable to live life with basic needs met.
Who are the low-wage workers — Most minimum-wage workers are young: 51% ages 16-24 and 21% ages 25-34. Most minimum-wage workers (59%) have no advanced education beyond high school. Nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage earners are food service workers. Part-time workers are paid less than full-time workers. There is far less upward mobility from low income to middle income, which manifests in negative consequences to the individual, family and community.
Where are the low-wage jobs — Low-wage jobs can be found in cleaning, caring for children and elders, selling items to customers. These jobs need to be done in our local communities and cannot be outsourced. They are less likely to provide benefits such as health insurance or sick leave.
Too many low-wage jobs — Over one-quarter of all jobs in the U.S. (26%) pay poverty-level wages, so low that a full-time worker cannot keep a family of four out of poverty. These jobs are more likely to be held by people of color.

Workers’ Rights and the Church

By Karen Kulm.
Published on March 17, 2011

You’ve seen the slogans: “The weekend, minimum wage, Worker’s Comp, and the middle class brought to you by: The Union.”  You’ve also seen recent massive gatherings of union members and their supporters rallying throughout the country, particularly in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.

The right to form, organize, or join a union is a fundamental and internationally recognized human right, listed in the 1948 United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights.  Yet our own nation’s laws provide weak protections for workers’ rights to form a union.  Laws are frequently violated and penalties to the employer are minimal.

We have recently seen in Wisconsin a state legislature and governor illegally taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.  (A Wisconsin judge issued a restraining order on March 18, blocking the contentious law from taking effect.)  Many local church leaders stood with the 85,000 people who protested in Wisconsin.

Multiple faith traditions insist that workers, as human beings with inherent dignity, may freely associate to improve their conditions at work.  Statements issued over the centuries by a wide array of faith bodies strongly affirm the right of workers to organize and bargain with their employers over wages, benefits, and a voice on the job.

General Synod 21 of The United Church of Christ (UCC) passed the “Resolution Affirming Democratic Principles In an Emerging Global Economy,” which affirms: “the heritage of the UCC as an advocate for just, democratic, participatory and inclusive economic policies in both public and private sectors, including… the responsibility of workers to organize for collective bargaining with employers regarding wages, benefits, and working conditions, and the responsibility of employers to respect not only worker rights but also workers’ dignity, and to create and maintain a climate conducive to the workers’ autonomous decision to organize.”

Our public workers did not cause our current economic crisis.  Cutting jobs of teachers, police officers, public health workers, bus drivers and others will not reduce state deficits. Stripping unions of collective bargaining rights will ultimately have a negative effect on families, communities and the economy.

I encourage you to be informed and take action.  Information is available at the UCC national website Justice Home Page under advocacy resources: http://www.ucc.org/justice/advocacy_resources/.  Interfaith Worker Justice www.iwj.org has many resources and a petition to “Stop Attacks on Public Sector Workers and Worker’s Unions.”  Many states, including those in the Central Pacific Conference (CPC), have been organizing protest rallies at their state capitols.

A call for a national day of action on April 4 has been issued.  On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, where he had gone to stand with sanitation workers demanding their dream: The right to bargain collectively for a voice at work and a better life. The workers were trying to form a union with AFSCME.  Beginning with worship services over the April 1 weekend, and continuing through the week of April 4, unions, people of faith, civil and human rights activists, students and other progressive allies will host a range of community- and workplace-focused actions.  Worship resources and information are available at the We Are One website: http://www.we-r-1.org/ .

Finally, the CPC Justice and Witness Team is sponsoring a resolution at the Spring Assembly in Portland, OR on May 20-21 titled “Resolution Affirming Workers’ Rights to Form Unions and Bargain Collectively.”

Karen Kulm, a member of Vancouver UCC, is a proud union member and active in various justice issues in her community.